After years of tension over Iran's nuclear program, tensions which nearly boiled over into war, a multilateral agreement was reached between the P5+1 countries and Iran in July 2015 and successfully implemented last year on January 16.
The nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was the result of 20 months of diplomatic negotiations that led to implementation of major restrictions on Iran's nuclear capabilities in exchange for the removal of nuclear related sanctions imposed on the country. This multilateral agreement was a major example of the successful resolution of major disagreements in a troubled region through diplomacy and constructive engagement instead of relying on military intervention or continuous isolation.
Since the implementation of JCPOA the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed in regular inspection reports that Iran has complied with its obligations under the agreement. As sanctions have been eased on Iran many international businesses have expressed their interest in entering the Iranian market.
In the first nine months of 2016 the European Union's trade with Iran has increased by 63 per cent. Several major contracts have been signed over the past 12 months including major deals with Boeing and Airbus, worth billions.
The results of successful diplomatic re-engagement with Iran have extended beyond its nuclear program. Recently Iran has entered into an agreement with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to implement an agreed upon action plan for combating money laundering and terrorist financing. The diplomatic dialogue established between U.S Secretary of State Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif helped in the quick release of 10 U.S sailors who were detained by Iranian military forces in the Persian Gulf in early 2016.
In recent months Iran has met with EU officials to discuss human rights related issues. While Iran's human rights record remains a significant concern, recently there have been slow but promising steps taken by moderate factions in Iran towards improving human rights conditions in the country. The proposal of a bill of citizens' rights by President Rouhani and efforts in the Iranian parliament to remove the death penalty for drug related crimes are examples of attempts by moderate forces to improve respect for human rights in Iran.
The re-integration of Iran into the international community is a momentous opportunity for further consultation and engagement to resolve disagreements over its regional policies and to address concerns over Iran's human rights record.
While the benefits of the nuclear agreement and reengagement with Iran have been significant and clear, there are important challenges and hurdles that lie ahead. Given the rhetoric from President Trump and the repeated attempts in U.S. Congress to block the implementation of the JCPOA, there is significant uncertainty about the future of the nuclear agreement and the future of U.S. policy vis-à-vis Iran.
At this time of uncertainty in U.S. politics it is important for other countries involved in the JCPOA and other U.S. allies including Canada to ensure the continuity of the deal. Canada, as a country with a historic role in advancing peace through diplomacy and as a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), should embrace the nuclear deal, reengage with Iran and encourage all parties involved in the nuclear agreement to fully comply with their obligations under the JCPOA.
The nuclear agreement with Iran was a significant accomplishment for diplomacy and dialogue in peacefully resolving a major international challenge in Middle East. While there are significant hurdles in the path forward, there is hope that the leadership of the countries involved, with the support of their allies, will continue dialogue and constructive engagement to address the existing challenges instead of backing away from the significant accomplishments of the deal and resorting into the failed coercive policies of the past that only exacerbated tensions and instability in the region.
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